Sunday, February 27, 2011

Abandonment Issues: The Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

The Blue Ghost Tunnel, also known at one time as
The Merritton Tunnel, The Great Western Railway Tunnel and The Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel, was constructed in the 1870's under the 3rd Welland Canal in St. Catharines, Ontario, and officially opened in April 1882. The tunnel is just over 730 feet long and is constructed of limestone, which was carried by train and wagon from the Queenston Quarry.

By the late 1800's, the Grand Trunk Railway was twinned and the tunnel was rarely used in favour of a new two track steel swing bridge built to the north, that is still in use to this day, although it is no longer a swing bridge.

On the second newest morning of January, 1903, a hundred yards from the tunnel's western entrance, two trains collided head on and two men lost their lives in a horrifically brutal fashion. Limbs separated from the mangled trapped mid-section of fresh corpses, on each train, as people attempted to rescue the disfigured men, stories say. It is believed by some that these men, as well as others that passed in the construction and use of these tunnels and canals, haunt the tunnel, hence its modern day name. The smoky waves of a photographer's breath is often captured in photographs with a blue hue in the cold damp tunnel, adding to the supernatural allure of The Blue Ghost.

In 1915, the last train passed through the limestone corridor, and the tunnel was abandoned. Reports indicate after the removal of the rail ties, the tunnel was used by local farmers throughout the 1900's to shepherd cattle from field A to B.

In the 1920's, a cemetery containing more than 600 unclaimed graves was drowned during the creation of what would become known as the 4th Welland Canal, they remain underwater to this day. Blue Ghosts.

In late February, 2011, as the sun set on a cold and bitter winter day, ninja IX and i sat down in the snow and slid down the icy slope to the tunnels entrance. And we excitedly entered the tunnel, after weeks of anticipation. Blue ghosts of breath haunted the camera lens in the cold blackness, so i had to hold my breath to shoot. The smell of smoke lingered in the air. Like it always does in tunnels, graffiti fades with the light, colourful vibrancy gives way to dark nothingness. Unfortunately, less than 200 feet in, we encountered a wall of icicles, the unexpected beginning of the end. At that moment, we were unprepared and unwilling to risk death by wall of icicles. We commented on the fact that we would be back in May before we turned around. The sun was gone as we exited the mouth of The Blue Ghost like a soft breath.

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

the blue ghost

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

Blue Ghost Tunnel

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Blue Light Project


"The Blue Light Project..." that's what he said to me when I asked what it was called. Perplexed and intrigued, I responded to his original question vehemently. Yes, of course I would help design the cover for the American publisher, Soft Skull, it would be an honour. And I was still pondering it months later as we wandered the alleys of Main Street, looking for the spot, Timo and I. A brush dipping in and out of a yoghurt container full of cellulose paste delivered the words to the city. Words that my hands had already stencilled to paper but my mind had been unable to get over-THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT. The Station Street alley, where the cascading confession once stood, and the roof of the Dominion Building too, we pasted up those intriguing words-THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT.

Timothy Taylor is becoming widely identified as one of Canada's elite authors. His first novel, the Giller Prize nominated 'Stanley Park' is a delicious literary feast that had readers eagerly awaiting seconds, and thirds. On March 1st, 2011, the wait is over. After just flipping the last page of the advance galley, for the second time, I can assure you that it fully satiates. I couldn't put it down, twice. A disgraced journalist, an Olympic gold medallist, a street artist named Rabbit, and a three day hostage crisis, oh and...THE BLUE LIGHT PROJECT.

Beyer, a friend of Rabbit, infamous for his FAITH WALL image, sent me these pictures. The image: A screaming punk, and the words, FAITH WALL. Millions of these stickers are up across the world in The Blue Light Project. But as of late Beyer has been sending images my way. All across Canada, hundreds and hundreds adorn mail crates travelling between Post Offices country-wide. Thousands of these stickers have gone up already from Vancouver to Montreal. Its begun to show up in Seattle and California, Michigan, and even appears to have just crossed the pond. The large poster image was pasted up by associates of Beyer, on Main St. in Vancouver. The stickers were shot all across Canada.

Faith Wall







The original cover concept was a traditional jermalism style scroll, up in the street...







The advance galley...


The Canadian cover...


Working alongside Jason Snyder from Soft Skull was a pleasure, and when he proposed using the cascading confession in the manner in which he did, I was humbled. My deepest secret, that I held onto for 29 years before exposing anonymously on the streets of Vancouver, would now sit prominently on the shelves of book stores across America, representing an author that I admire and respect, a friend that I adore, and a novel that I love.

cascading confession

cascading confession


The book is already garnering some high praise...

"The Blue Light Project slows down today's accelerated world in order to sympathetically probe the constraints of celebrity, public art, and biopolitics in the context of contemporary terrorism. At the core of this suspenseful novel is a hostage crisis that is terrifyingly real. Taylor forces us to consider probabilities. What might happen at the confluence of fear, love, and hope?
Just as Taylor's first novel Stanley Park concludes with one of the most memorable meals in contemporary literature, the final illumination in The Blue Light Project will haunt readers for decades to come. Writing at times with the incisive vision of Margaret Atwood, the broken lyricism of Michael Ondaatje, the social realism of Rohinton Mistry, and the brutal honesty of Douglas Coupland, Timothy Taylor now firmly ranks among Canada's finest authors. The Blue Light Project is an important book. Pay attention."

-Laura Moss

The Blue Light Project hits bookstores on March 1st, 2011.
Go get it.

The FAITH WALL stickers are hitting cities everywhere.

Keep your eyes open.

Thanks for everything Timo, your kindness and support has been a true blessing. Respect.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Abandonment Issues: Globe / Nicholson File


Along the banks of the Ganaraska River that weaves through the southern Ontario town of Port Hope and empties into Lake Ontario, stands what was once known as the Globe File / Nicholson File manufacturing plant.

According to the Globe File page on, "Frederick Outram established the Globe File Manufacturing Company here in 1888, on the former Beamish Mill property. In 1901, Globe File was sold to the Nicholson File Company of the United States. Nicholson was subsequently taken over by Cooper Industries in 1972, and remained in Port Hope until NAFTA (1994) led to its being moved to Mexico."



According to the real estate listing, the building is 7800 square feet, with two elevators, light fixtures and a hydro station. The asking price is $799,000.

Harnessing the renewable energy provided by the Ganaraska River, the plant and its machines were powered by water and steam. There are several signs indicating that portions of the building may possibly have been used as an auto-body shop at some point between then and now.

Below is a Nicholson File catalog page I found online.


This plant is quite dangerous to explore, and the explorers in this story took some risky chances that some may say border on stupid. Don't try this at home, well, you know what I mean.

In Febrauary 2011, the first room to welcome these explorers was the northeast portion of the plant, along the river. A junk pile stood floor to ceiling in the corner, mostly furniture, as well as a raccoon carcass. A boat sat prominently in the centre of this large room, a row of skylights high above. Inside the boat, the floor was sketchy, while the outside had been tagged. Two cars rested on flat tires behind the boat, their windows smashed, glass littering the seats and dashboards. I know absolutely nothing about cars, but I've been informed that the green one was a 1974-75 Plymouth Valiant, and the yellow one was a 1977-78 Renault Le Car.

Bright green moss announced itself like high end art on the red brick walls. The building was sealed tight, almost too tight. The exterior windows and doors had been boarded and welded shut with whatever was nearby. Plywood, 2x4s, wooden skids, metal grates and wires are nailed, screwed, welded and tied up sporadically to the window and door frames. The roof was caving in in several places, and snow piles littered the floor beneath each hole, like little white dunes and dremlins. A colourful assortment of powdered paint pigments formed a divided spastic rainbow on the ground. All of the doors out of this room appeared to be sealed tight.

Things are not always as they appear.











Somehow, on the other side of a door, two flashlight beams bounced down a dark hallway and faded into the natural light coming from the holes in the roof of this next room. It was a massive room that made up the back of the central portion of the plant, and it was packed with the most random assortment of file folders, clothing and carpets, appliances and fake plants and everything else you can imagine. Rows of shelves held boxes of tools and papers and paint and so on. Some shelves had rusted out and the contents had fallen and spread across the floor, which was covered with it all. Traversing this room was very difficult in places, especially attempting to access and test the exterior doors, which were sealed tight, beyond piles of everything you can imagine. A hoarders paradise. Everything seemed so old. 'My iphone is the only thing present to prove we hadn't time traveled to the past', one explorer thought to himself. Snow lightly dusted into the room from the holes in the roof as they made there way back to the dark hallway, then through it and back past the boat.







Outside, moments after a hilarious slip and slide adventure on what turned out to be a concrete slanted wall under the snow, they were standing on the edge of the roof. The snow was thigh high and they looked back at the path they had just carved into it below, they then turned to look at the path ahead. A climbable window into a large room excitedly stood 15 or 20 feet across the roof. The roof full of holes, covered in heavy wet snow.


The body can't react to what the eye can't see, and with all that snow the eyes couldn't see the roof. The eyes couldn't see it's bulges and holes, its imperfections. So the feet treaded carefully, one step at a time, like an alcoholic would say to another alcoholic. Testing tentatively the weight of an explorer against each square foot of roof of a building built in the 1800s, factoring in the weight of the snow and the distance to the floor two-stories below and the indeterminate time frame since this building was up to code. The explorers became tense and silent, communicating with hand motions as if the reverberations from their voices would have been the straw that might break the camels back. Heartbeats fluttered at techno music paces and that truly alive feeling took over. That truly alive feeling that you can only feel once you've come to the edge of losing your life. The truly alive feeling that one feels in the wake of a failed suicide attempt or a near death experience.


The second floor of the central portion of the plant is where they stood, between white brick walls. The next room was mammoth. White plastic pails were scattered everywhere, two kids plastic purple pools were full of ice. Despite this clear attempt to catch rainwater at some point, the damage was extensive. The roof was collapsing in several areas and the floorboards were warped and jutting up from the floor in waves. A lone, long wooden desk rested against a wall and all of the doors were sealed shut, yet again.










From a broken window inside, the stairs to the first floor were visible. The door to access the stairs was sealed, and climbing through the window, while possible, would be dangerous, and our explorers didn't do it on this day. It has been rumoured that there were more old cars on this southern side of the first floor.


It appeared to the explorers that every single room was sealed and needed to be accessed independently. Some rooms could be peeked into but not entered. Along the river, which was frozen only in places, there were several points that the water used to enter and exit the building, to power it. But at this time the riverbed was not accessible, neither was the southern half of the plant.


In late summer, when the river has receded, would be the ideal time to explore this gem further, the explorers noted, with smiles and that truly alive feeling.

A victory. Well, half of a victory.

***February 2nd, 2013***

In the summer of 2011, a few months after the explorers first visit, Vancouver based graffiti artist and dear friend Open5 informed the explorers that he had randomly stumbled upon the old file factory in his travels, and did some interior decorating. This excited the explorers, but subsequent attempts at gaining entry proved fruitless.




In January of 2012, a gentleman contacted the explorer online, and informed him that he had purchased the property and planned to redevelop the building into viable commercial and residential space. He made an offer to the explorer, inviting him to come for one last look around. The explorer caught a bad vibe, and sticking with his intuition, declined the invitation.

Something just didn't seem right.

For months and months after, rumours swirled that work was indeed taking place. Rumours of both demolition and construction inside different parts of the building left the explorer confused. Trash was being removed by the truckload, including cars and boats and so on, a friend told him. Whenever he stopped by, there were one or two people on site, or he just caught that bad vibe again, and he did not attempt entry.

Something just didn't seem right.

On Wednesday, November 21st, 2012, the Port Hope Police raided the former file factory and seized 1824 marijuana plants worth an estimated street value of $1.8 million, in what was described as a very sophisticated grow op. A newspaper article described an ongoing construction process, with three rooms up and operational, already containing $150,000 of state of the art equipment, including lighting, timers, hundreds of ballasts, hoses, fans, barrels of water, mylar surrounding the grow rooms and an elaborate security system with infrared cameras around the building.

Upon hearing this news, the explorer shook his head, so glad to have trusted his gut every step of the way.

Something just didn't seem right. And it wasn't. Surely even a laymen understands the potential danger one could encounter trespassing and finding one's self inside a large scale secret grow-op such as this.

In early February 2013, the explorer finally returned to try his luck, in the company of friends. And good luck he found. Almost a full two years since that first explore, he took another tour. This time, they explored the entire building, every nook and cranny. Most of the contents present two years before, were nowhere to be found. The rumours were true. Some floors had been reinforced, others had deteriorated further. Plastic sheets still hung from the ceiling in the completed areas of the grow op, which had been decimated. Although remnants remain scattered throughout.  Tarps used by the growers to collect rainwater from the leaky roof on the second floor still sat in place, containing frozen lakes. Open5's graffiti finally revealed itself in a room in the far corner. The large open room with the purple pools was virtually empty two years ago, but was now filled with debris. The opposite was true in almost every other room. The building was naked in comparison.

Take another look around.

The L'Allasudz IX Tour



















And so I close the file on Globe/Nicholson.

click here to check out all of jerm & ninja IX's ABANDONMENT ISSUES